The way Hispanics choose to categorize themselves will have a profound effect on America's racial make-up and politics.
According to Pew—and echoing the results in the last census—the United States is just a few decades away from its demographic inflection point. Come 2050, only 47 percent of Americans will call themselves White, while the majority will belong to a minority group. Blacks will remain steady at 13 percent of the population, while Asians will grow to 8 percent. Hispanics, on the other hand, will explode to 28 percent of all U.S. population, up from 19 percent in 2010. Immigration is driving this “demographic makeover,” specifically the “40 million immigrants who have arrived since 1965, about half of them Hispanics and nearly three-in-ten Asians.”
But the thing to remember about the Hispanic category, for instance, is that it contains a wide range of colors and ethnicities. In the United States, Hispanics (or more broadly Latinos) include Afro-Brazilians, dark-skinned Puerto Ricans, indigenous Mexicans, Venezuelan mestizos, and European Argentinians, among others.
To say that America will become a majority-minority country is to erase these distinctions and assume that, for now and forever, Latinos will remain a third race, situated next to “non-Hispanic Blacks” and “non-Hispanic Whites.” But, as the Zimmerman controversy illustrates, it’s not that simple.